Race, academic achievement and the issue of inequitable motivational payoff

David M. Silverman*, R. Josiah Rosario, Stephanie V. Wormington, Yoi Tibbetts, Chris S. Hulleman, Mesmin Destin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


As racial inequities continue to pervade school systems around the world, further research is necessary to understand the factors undergirding this pressing issue. Here across three studies conducted in the United States (N = 8,293), we provide evidence that race-based differences in student achievement do not stem from a lack of motivation among Black, Latinx and Indigenous (BLI) students, but a lack of equitable motivational payoff. Even when BLI and non-BLI students have the same levels of motivation, BLI students still receive maths grades that are an average of 9% lower than those of their non-BLI peers (95% confidence interval 7 to 11%). This pattern was not explained by differences in students’ aptitude, effort or prior achievement but was instead linked to teachers’ diminished expectations for their BLI students’ academic futures. We conclude by discussing statistical power limitations and the implications of the current findings for how researchers consider the sources of, and solutions for, educational inequity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-528
Number of pages14
JournalNature human behaviour
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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